Walker Blue, New York City's premier investigator, wants to take on Miles Jacoby as a partner, but first Miles (Hard Look, 1993, etc.) has to clear his ledger of two cases. The first involves Stan Waldrop, the stand-up comic with a bad memory whose request that Miles find his stolen computer joke file comes to a premature climax when Stan's killed in his dressing room at The Comic Look. The second concerns Miles's old friend Ray Carbone, who's gone AWOL instead of providing the alibi his buddy Danny Pesce says would spring him from the Tombs, where he's being held for killing bookie Michael Bonetti. Fans of Miles's earlier exploits won't expect the two cases to have anything to do with each other, and they'll be right; the only links are in Miles's inimitably flat narration, pointless interrogations, and ham-handed repartee (``Why were you going to try to seduce me the other night?'' he asks Stan's agent after a tender scene at her apartment withers under his forthright questioning). All the gestures of the classic private-eye novel with none of the conviction that would make them tell. Though Miles does rouse himself to do some actual detective work on both cases before he hangs up his hat, the biggest mystery here is why Walker Blue would ever want this nebbish for a partner.